The End of an Experiment

This is the third version of this week’s post. Every time I thought my post was ready, something changed and put me back at square one. This time, I lost the child-care that let me substitute teach a few days a week. My experiment in part-time work is over and I have mixed feelings about it.

Despite my misgivings about being a stay-at-home mom, I actually do enjoy my days with my son. I also take a lot of pride in keeping a clean house and preparing healthy meals for my husband. So my first thought was that I wouldn’t have to feel the tug-of-war in my heart every time I dropped off my son so I could go teach.

I am also thankful: I chose to become a substitute because I enjoy being in a classroom. It was not something I did because I needed a job. Only 36% of SAH moms surveyed by Pew Research Center said that not working at all is ideal, which is down from 40% in 2007. In other words, 60% of SAH moms want to work. In commentaries on the Pew Research Center’s 2014 report about the increase in the number of SAH moms, it was suggested that this is due in large part to the difficulty families have in finding jobs and child-care. In fact, The Economist suggested that fixing the salary gap between men and women would do little to advance women’s rights. The real challenge that women face is finding the services they need (like child-care) in order to continue to work after having children. Until I became a mom and tried to go back to work, I didn’t understand the reality of this argument. Our government could pass legislation so that men and women in the same positions are paid the same rates, but if those men and women can’t find child-care, the salary won’t matter. Without child care, parents don’t have a choice; they have to be a SAH mom or dad.

The fact that I am one again a full-time SAH mom leads me back to the crux of the Stay-at-home Complex: It stems from uncertainty in my identity now that I am taking on a new role. As a teacher, I thrived on the challenges students’ present & the accomplishments they achieve classroom. I liked the idea of being able to contribute financially to my family. I loved feeling useful and active in my community. Teaching was my way to do all of that. Who am I if I stop teaching? Who am I if I can’t contribute to my family and community like I used to? Possible answers include Mama or SAH mom, but I’m still figuring out what that means. Am I truly called to be a SAH mom? If I am, great! I’m exactly where I need to be. But what if I’m not? Today I realized that figuring out my new place in my family and in the world – or finding new ways to do what I used to – is the key to working through the Stay-at-home Complex.

References

Pew Research Center. (2014, April 8). After Decades of Decline, A Rise in Stay-at-Home Mothers. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2014/04/Moms-At-Home_04-08-2014.pdf

(2014, April 19). The return of the stay-at-home mother. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21600998-after-falling-years-proportion-mums-who-stay-home-rising-returnhttp://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/08/rising-cost-of-child-care-may-help-explain-increase-in-stay-at-home-moms/

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